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See also: yard bird



Alternative formsEdit


Attested since 1956 in the sense of ‘convict,’ derived from the idea of prison yards. During World War II, it meant ‘basic trainee’ among the armed forces.[1]



yardbird (plural yardbirds)

  1. (chiefly US, slang) A chicken.
  2. (chiefly US, slang) A person who is imprisoned.
    • 1985, John P. Conrad, "Charting a Course for Imprisonment Policy," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 478, p. 126:
      The working convict is a rare exception, sometimes envied because his time is occupied, sometimes derided for his deviance from the yardbird norm.
  3. (chiefly US, slang) A soldier who is required to perform menial work on the grounds of a military base.
    • 1943, "In the Rough," Time, 5 Jul.:
      As the Marines expanded to war strength, Lou Diamond was the ideal liaison between crusty old-timers and impressionable recruits. He taught quick action by threats of yardbird detail.



  1. ^ yardbird” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2018.